HL Deb 31 July 1951 vol 173 cc24-5

2.37 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government whether they can hold out hopes of instituting here facilities, already long in practice in other countries, notably in the U.S.A. and Canada, where on Sunday mornings long-distance telephone service is at reduced rates, as against charges in force normally.]


My Lords, while the facility mentioned by the noble Lord is available in the United States and in Canada, it is not, so far as His Majesty's Government have been able to ascertain, generally available in other countries. In some countries—for example, France and Belgium—no cheap rate facility is available on any day and in at least one country, New Zealand, the cheap rate facility available on weekday evenings is withdrawn on Sunday evening. Reduced rates for telephone trunk calls are in force in this country from 6 p.m. to 10.30 p.m., including Sundays, their main purpose being to encourage the public to make telephone calls of a social character outside the peak hours of business calls. The reduced rates have never applied to Sunday mornings. This question was considered in 1934, but with the concurrence of the Post Office Advisory Council, which included Members of both Houses of Parliament, the Postmaster-General of the day took the view that such an extension would not be desirable. The matter has again been fully considered, but I regret that I cannot hold out hopes of its being possible to institute this facility.


My Lords, arising out of that reply, since it is generally understood that the telephone services of the North American Continent are more efficient than anywhere else, would it not be possible to emulate that efficiency and rely upon the expectation of getting a larger volume of business from the existing plant during the hours of Sunday, rather than leaving the existing plant in use to only a limited capacity?


My Lords, the noble Lord will not expect me to enter into a debate with him as to the relative efficiency of telephone services in different countries. The Postmaster-General is fully aware of the desirability of making the maximum use of the plant at all "off" times to secure the greatest efficiency. I would remind the noble Lord, however, that the facility for which he asks does not involve merely the use of the plant but the use of additional labour on Sundays, which raises very great difficulties. There are also certain social and other objections to his proposal. However, it is mainly because of the labour problem that I am unable to hold out hopes of introducing the facility for which the noble Lord asks.


Does the noble Lord mean that he cannot afford it?


Will my noble friend discourage people from ringing us up on Sunday mornings?